Swiss Clothing Giant Signs Bangladesh Accord–But Migros And Coop Still Refuse

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TALLY Weijl, the Swiss clothing giant, has signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, piling further pressure on supermarkets Migros and Coop to prove their commitment to safety in the Bangladeshi garment sector.

The company signed the agreement, drafted by Swiss-based IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, on the Accord’s first anniversary and in doing so joined 172 brands to have committed since May 15 last year.

Swiss supermarkets Migros and Coop both source textile products from Bangladesh but have so far refused to sign the deal which commits to independent safety inspections in factories used by Accord signatories.

Almost half of all Bangladesh factories for the export market and two million workers are now covered by the scope of the Accord, and amongst its signatories are a host of European supermarkets including Carrefour, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and more.

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina welcomes Swiss fashion group Tally Weijl to the Bangladesh Accord.

He said: ‘With so many international brands and retailers signed up to the Accord, it is shameful that Migros and Coop, two of Switzerland”s biggest supermarkets, have yet to become signatories. Migros and Coop should follow Tally Weijl”s example and show some commitment to a safe and sustainable garment industry in Bangladesh.’

UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings says: ‘We congratulate Tally Weijl on joining 172 brands in proving their commitment to worker safety in Bangladesh.

‘Migros and Coop are mistaken if they think that the business as usual approach is enough to prevent the next Rana Plaza disaster. The Bangladesh Accord was made in Switzerland and Swiss companies should be amongst those leading the charge to save lives.

‘A year on from its first signature, the Bangladesh Accord has taken huge strides forward. A factory inspection programme is in full swing. So far, more than 500 factories have been inspected.

‘Each factory is examined for structural integrity and fire and electrical safety. By October this year, the Accord aims to have inspected all 1,500 factories. It has employed a dedicated team of more than 100 technical experts and engineers who now conduct 45 inspections per week.’

• A Cambodian man who was beaten by military police during the lethal suppression of a nationwide strike of garment workers in January died of his head injuries on Saturday, his family said Sunday.

Muon Sokmean, 29, was demanding a $160 minimum wage with colleagues from the Canadia Industrial Park on Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh when military police armed with AK-47 assault rifles crushed the protest, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40.

The death of Muon Sokmean from injuries sustained on January 3 would bring the total killed to six. However, an autopsy was not performed before his wife Pok Heam cremated his body on Saturday. Pok Heam said on Sunday that her husband had woken up at 3am Saturday, yelling in pain in their small Pur Senchey district room.

She said she rushed her husband to a clinic but that he died on the way. She said she is certain his injuries from the police’s blows – a damaged eye and a brain contusion – caused his death. ‘I want to file a complaint, but since we are poor how can we win over them?,’ Pok Heam asked. ‘I am very angry with authorities but we cannot do anything.’

Heam cremated her husband’s body on Saturday afternoon in a ceremony attended by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who also blamed authorities for Muon Sokmean’s death. Rainsy pledged at the ceremony at a Dang Kao district pagoda: ‘We will push to find the justice for the victims and find the perpetrators.’

A January 6 doctor’s report from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital says an initial C.T. scan of Muon Sokmean’s brain showed he had no fractures to his cranium. The report also says his ventricular system was working normally and that he suffered a small frontal contusion.

Dr. Jean-Claude Garen of Naga Clinic in Phnom Penh, who did not work on Sokmean’s case, said it is unusual but not impossible for such trauma to cause death months down the road. ‘If the patient is suffering symptoms, like vomiting and headaches, they require a second C.T. scan even if it’s more than a month later,’ said Garen, noting internal bleeding can lead to death if the blood is not drained to relieve pressure.

Heam said on Sunday that her husband often got dizzy and had headaches, adding that after an initial 20-day stay in hospital, they could no longer afford any more visits – or a second C.T. scan.

Brigadier General Keng Tito, spokesman for the national military police, said proof was needed before accusing authorities of Muon Sokmean’s death.

The police spokeman added: ‘We need to do an investigation into who hit him. We cannot accept (Heam’s) accusation.’ Heam, meanwhile, has been left to care for her three-year-old son alone.

• Nurses at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College and Hospital went on strike for seven-hours from Sunday evening till Monday morning after three of their fellows were physical assaulted by some interns.

In protest, around 200 students of the nursing institute attached to the medical college boycotted their classes and examinations demanding punitive measures against the attackers. They also formed a human chain which lasted for half an hour from around 12:30pm in front of the hospital entrance and then brought out a procession.

The students later handed over a memorandum to the hospital director pressing home their demand, reports our Sylhet correspondent.

Tofail Ahmed and some other interns beat up a male nurse, Proloy Chandra Bapari, around 12:30am as he delayed to response to call of Tofail, hospital witnesses said. The interns also beat up two other female nurses while they were trying to resist Tofail and others from assaulting Proloy, the nurses alleged.

They also confined Proloy to a room at the hospital for over an hour, local medics claimed. Proloy and two other female nurses are now undergoing treatment in the hospital. Proloy, a third year student of Sylhet Nursing College, was rescued by the senior physicians later.

Immediately after the assault, the nurses immediately started work abstention and held a protest rally in front of the emergency department of the hospital demanding steps against the responsible interns, reports our Sylhet correspondent.

On being informed of the situation, Director of the hospital, Brigadier General Md Mizanur Rahman held an emergency meeting with the officials, interns and nurses to settle the issue.

The nurses joined work around 7:00am after getting assurance from the director that the authorities will look into the matter.

Tanmoy Bhattacharya, deputy director of the hospital, said a four-member investigation committee has been formed with Professor Md Monozzir Ali of Pediatric department as its chief to probe the incident. The body has been asked to submit its report in seven days, he added.

As part of their academic syllabus, both male and female nurses, all students of the nursing college, serve patients of the MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital.